On July 7th the international delegation left Bergen and traveled by train on the Bergen Line to the mountain station in Myrdal. The regular rail line from Bergen to Myrdal has one of the most scenic train rides in Norway, traveling along the fjords. However, the views in the next train were even more spectacular.
At Myrdal, the Forde Festival international delegation boarded the famous Flåms Railway (Flåmsbana). This historic train takes travelers from high in the fjords, 866 meters above sea level, to Flåm which is nestled at the bottom of the Aurlandsfjord, at sea level.
The views during the train journey are magnificent. Throughout the train ride, the visitors saw rivers that cut through profound ravines, waterfalls cascading down the side of steep, snow-capped mountains and mountain farms.
After exiting the Bakli tunnel, the Flåmsbana train stopped at Kjosfossen for a few minutes to get a spectacular view of the Kjoss waterfall. “Truly impressive,” said World Music Central’s Angel Romero. “It’s one of the most beautiful train rides I’ve ever had. As we descended, there many waterfalls and beautiful landscapes. I really enjoyed the stop at Kjosfossen, to get a closeup lok at the waterfall..”
At Flåm, Laila Immel, from the Destination Aurland- Flåm -Laerdal tourism office joined the group as a guide. With Laila on board, the international delegation boarded a bus and headed to Otternes, where they were given delicious samples of locally produced food, including dried meats such as lamb, goat, pork sausage, reindeer sausage, flat bread, salad, and white goat cheese from the small fjord village of Undredal. For dessert, the international delegates were given lappar (Norwegian pancakes) with cream and preserves (jam). During lunch, a farm representative introduced the origin of the food and the history of farming in the fjord.
From there, the group traveled up the fjord, along the Aurlandsvegen road, which is a mountain road between Aurland and Lærdal. The international delegates were taken to a stunning lookout point 650 meters above sea level called Stegastein, which is 6 kilometers from the center of Aurland.
The Norwegian government’s road administration is creating a series of dramatic viewpoints along tourist routes throughout the country, designed by renowned architects. In this case, the Stegastein overlook platform was designed and built by Canadian architect Todd Saunders who has lived and worked in Norway since 1997 and prestigious Norwegian architect Tommie Wihelmsen. Saunders and Wilhelm won the first prize in Norwegian tourist routes competition. Stegastein offers a breathtaking panoramic view, overlooking the Aurlandfjord.
From Stegastein, the bus took the international delegates back to sea level, where Laila Immel showed them an ancient church and explained the history of the state churches in Norway. After that, the delegates boarded a high speed catamaran at Aurland on the Sognefjord. The Sognefjord (Sognefjorden) is the largest fjord in Norway, and the second longest in the world.
The boat ride was very comfortable and offered stunning views of the fjords from sea level and even a small herd of wild goats near the shore. The delegates got off the ship at Balestrand to spend the night at the historic Kvikness Hotel.
The view from the hotel rooms was truly mesmerizing. The small Swiss style inn from 1752 has grown to be a modern hotel, one of the largest tourist hotels in Norway. The hotel has an extensive collection of paintings and antiques. “What a view!” said Angel Romero, from his room’s balcony. “The scenery of the fjords is mesmerizing. I love the different contrasts of colors in the water, mountains and sky. Looking at the calm water and fjord background was very relaxing.”
In the evening, the Forde Festival delegates headed over to the magnificent St. Olaf Church in Balestrand, which is made out of wood and is also known as the English Church Balestrand. Forde Festival organizers provided the first musical showcase of the trip with two of Norway’s finest musicians: Karl Seglem on bukkehorn (goat horn) and saxophone, and Håkon Høgemo on hardander fiddle. The concert was free and open to the general public.
Karl Seglem is a renowned musician and composer, who blends beautiful jazz melodies and atmospheres with traditional Norwegian folk music. Håkon Høgemois one of Norway’s leading hardanger fiddle players and has collaborated with Seglem for many years.
Although Karl Seglem usually performs with a larger ensemble, he and Håkon Høgemo gave an exquisite intimate performance, enhanced by the beauty of the church. The duo played four pieces, including material from Seglem’s new album titled Ossicles. The plan is to release Ossicles in August 2010 on NORCD in Scandinavia and a bit later in the rest of the world. The album will be licensed to Ozella Music (Germany) for international distribution.